Union with Christ

We celebrate the 200th episode of Christ the Center together with our guest (and studio host!), Dr. Lane G. Tipton. Dr. Tipton is the Charles Krahe Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, and has done extensive work on Reformed soteriology. In this milestone episode, we treat several dimensions of the Reformed discussion of union with Christ including Lutheranism, definitive sanctification, and the incorporation of transformative aspects into justification. Join us for this memorable and lively discussion.

Dr. Michael Horton responded to Dr. Lane G. Tipton in episode 207 of Christ the Center.

The views and opinions expressed in this interview are solely of the individuals and are not the views of Reformed Forum or any other organization affiliated with the participants in this interview.




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Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program and learn how to subscribe.

127 Responses

  1. patrick

    Grats on 200 episodes! That must make 300+ with all the other shows included. Here’s hoping you keep at it for many years to come.

  2. Thanks for going two hours on this topic. I’m a layman, and had occasionally heard about differences between Westminsters East & West, and this really helped me understand those differences. I was introduced to Reformed theology by Michael Horton’s materials and the Lord used CURE and ACE and WHI to gradually bring me around to embrace it. I will certainly be looking forward to a future program in which Dr. Horton may respond to Dr. Tipton’s characterization of his work on justification and the other benefits of redemption in Christ. More public dialogue on this ought to take place, IMHO. At this point, Dr. Tipton’s case sounds convincing and more in line with the Reformed confessions and catechisms, as opposed to Dr. Horton’s efforts to, as I once heard him state on the air, build a kind of ecumenism between Reformed, Lutheran and Anglican traditions. I can see how some synthesis may be taking place in that effort. But what do I know?

    Congratulations on 200 episodes!

    1. You know nothing:) (That’s a quote from Hogan’s Heroes). Anyway, the fact is that the Anglican Formularies are as Calvinist as Westminister, albeit in more succinct form. The fact that Tractarianism and liberalism has perverted modern Anglicanism is beside the point.

      As for Lutheranism being semi-pelagian, that might be true of Melanchthon but it cannot be said of Luther himself as anyone reading The Bondage of the Will can see, particularly the section on the sovereignty of God in election and salvation. Luther clearly rejects foreknowledge of good works as a basis for salvation since nothing that happens is by contingency but by God’s will.

      Anyone willing to examine the Augsburg Confession and the Book of Concord can see that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is not semi-pelagian by any stretch of the imagination. It is true that the modern controversy within Lutheranism over the theology of C.F. W. Walther (crypto-Calvinism versus semi-Arminianism) would know that Tipton’s overgeneralization of “all” Lutheran theology is misplaced. Carl Trueman’s point about the reification of such terms is well taken here. Lutheranism has a diversity as much as the Reformed tradition does.

      And should I point out that Gaffin, Murray, Frame and others in the neo-nomian camp have little to no credibility from perspective of the Clarkians? I would assume that the Westminster CA crowd, albeit more in line with Westminster PA than the Clarkian view, also have an extreme aversion to the misrepresentations made in this program.

      It seems that the internet has become a bully pulpit for legalism, neo-nomianism, and semi-pelagianism posing as a “reified” Reformed and confessional position. Ironically, it is Tipton who is promoting semi-pelagianism here. The dispute between the classical Calvinists and the neo-Kuyperians rages on. The semi-Arminians have apparently gained the upper hand at Westminster PA. How Tipton can with a straight face deny that the Canons of Dort condemn Arminians as lost heretics is beyond me! Chalk it up to a “conundrum” or a “paradox”? I guess logic propositions are meaningless for Tipton?

  3. G. Kyle Essary

    This was excellent. The Malaysia listening base was pleased and we don’t mind any Greek…it’s Christ the Center after all.

    1. Mark G

      I would also recommend Resurrection and Redemption by Richard Gaffin. Gaffin also did a series of lectures titled “Mystery of Union With Christ.” You can find them on the web.

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  5. David

    Hi, I really found this helpful. I have a question regarding what you said to the effect that to construe justification as in any sense prior to regeneration is to move in a semi-Pelagian direction. I wonder if you can help me relate this thesis to some material in Berkhof’s Systematic Theology in which he appears to give justification priority to everything else in the ordo. For example, he says in his chapter on mystical union:

    Justification is always a declaration of God, not on the basis of an existing condition, but on that of a gracious imputation,” a declaration which is not in harmony with the existing condition of the sinner. The judicial ground for all the special grace which we receive lies in the fact that the righteousness of Christ is freely imputed to us.

    It seems to me that regeneration and the gift of faith would have to be included in “all the special grace we receive,” wouldn’t it? Hence, Berkhof is grounding the entire ordo, including effectual calling and faith, in justification (“the righteousness of Christ is freely imputed to us”), isn’t he?

    Also, in his chapter on justification, he distinguishes between “active justification,” which he says “logically precedes faith” and “passive justification.” He also says:

    The sinner receives the initial grace of regeneration on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Consequently, the merits of Christ must have been imputed to him before his regeneration. But while this consideration leads to the conclusion that justification logically precedes regeneration, it does not prove the priority of justification in a temporal sense.

    Finally, in his chapter on soteriology in general:

    In connection with the various movements in the work of application we should bear in mind that the judicial acts of God constitute the basis for His recreative acts, so that justification, though not temporally, is yet logically prior to all the rest …

    Is Berkhof contradicting what you presented in this episode, or am I missing something? Please help!

    1. Mark G

      Hi David,

      Back up to the beginning Berkhof’s “The Doctrine and the Application of the Work of Redemption” and read on from there. First he treats union with Christ (from which we receive all our benefits), then regeneration and effectual calling, then conversion, faith and sanctification. Under his treatment of the Ordo Salutis, The Reformed View he discusses the various ways theologians have treated the topic. He follows this with a discussion of the Lutheran View.

      1. Mark G

        Where I typed “faith” there I intended “Justification” although he also says the majority of reformed theologians discuss justification in connection with or immediately after faith. He also says “They begin the ordo salutis with regeneration or with calling, and thus emphasize the fact that the application of the redemptive work of Chris is in its incipiency a work of God.

      2. David

        Mark G.

        A couple of things:

        1. In that section you mention in Berkhof’s Sys. Theo., “The Doctrine of the Application of the Work of Redemption,” under the section titled, “The Reformed View,” Berkhof says this:

        Proceeding on the assumption that man’s spiritual condition depends on his state, that is, on his relation to the law; and that it is only on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ that the sinner can be delivered from the corrupting and destructive influence of sin,—Reformed Soteriology takes its starting point in the union established in the pactum salutis between Christ and those whom the Father has given Him, in virtue of which there is an eternal imputation of the righteousness of Christ to those who are His.

        He does not even mention existential union in this section (though of course he does elsewhere). But he certainly does appear to prioritize justification.

        2. One of my Berkhof quotes above was actually from that same section:

        In connection with the various movements in the work of application we should bear in mind that the judicial acts of God constitute the basis for His recreative acts, so that justification, though not temporally, is yet logically prior to all the rest [and it’s clear he intends to include regeneration here too]…”

        But this appears to me to directly contradict two of Dr. Tipton’s assertions: (1) Justification doesn’t have any priority, not even logical, over any of the other benefits of redemption (because one aspect of Christ’s work can’t be more important than another aspect of it) and (2) To prioritize justification over regeneration (even logically) is to move in a semi-Pelagian direction. Berkhof appears to me to contradict Tipton on both these points.

        If you (or someone else) is able to, it would be very helpful if you would interact directly with my quotes from Berkhof above. Thank you!

    2. David,

      I do think that Berkhof, and he is following Bavinck, is off the beaten path here. He is advocating a certain form of justification before faith. Unfortunately, various forms of justification before faith are found among some prominent Reformed theologians, including the first prolocutor of the Westminster Assembly. This brief post might be helpful: http://patrickspensees.wordpress.com/2009/07/20/owen-witsius-and-justification-before-faith/

      And after listening to this episode, I wonder if Horton is saying something similar.

      1. David


        Thanks. Yes, that is helpful. Owen, in Of the Death of Christ, wrestles with the same dilemma as Hodge, Berkhof and others:

        “I offer [suggest], also, whether absolution from the guilt of sin and obligation unto death, though not as terminated in the conscience for complete justification, do not precede our actual believing; for what is that love of God which through Christ is effectual to bestow faith upon the unbelieving? and how can so great love, in the actual exercise of it, producing the most distinguishing mercies, consist with any such act of God’s will as at the same instant should bind that person under the guilt of sin?”

    3. Tipton is confused. To confuse the logical order of the decrees of God with the temporal order regarding superlapsarianism versus infralapsarianism is a serious confusion. The same can be said when it comes to the ordo salutis. Tipton obviously confuses the temporal order with the logical order at several points in this discussion. First of all, LOGICALLY, the order of salvation or ordo salutis in the Reformed tradition begins with unconditional election NOT union with Christ! Secondly, justification does precede regeneration logically since our justification is imputed on the basis of Christ’s particular atonement. That provision is an eternal provision made before the foundation of world. Scripture calls Christ, “the lamb slain before the foundation of the world.”

      All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Revelation 13:8 NKJ)

      I might add that Herman Hoeksema of the Protestant Reformed Church in America said that we are “eternally justified” in Christ and that this flows from the doctrine of unconditional election. To call this semi-pelagianism as Tipton does, is to utilize a smokescreen for one’s own semi-pelagianism and neo-nomianism. A good indication of this is that Tipton continually vacillates back and forth between justification as the basis for assurance and union with Christ (justification plus progressive sanctification) as the basis for salvation. He also says that Arminians deny justification by faith alone while giving them an irrational ticket to heaven. I guess believing the Gospel is NOT essential to salvation after all? Roman Catholic idolaters and pharisees are saved in spite of denying justification by faith alone? And Tipton has the audacity to accuse defenders of the Gospel as antinomians and semi-pelagians? PUHLEEZE!!!

  6. Thanks guys for this episode. This has been an issue that has confused and caused much division amongst us lately. Modern Day Reformed Thought (my terminology to define WSCal or proto-Lutheran thought among us) has caused much confusion in my estimation. This episode clears up some of the issues.


  7. Jared O.

    Just as a point of clarification, can we agree that even if one is successful in pointing that there is disagreement between Berkhof and what Tipton explains in this episode, that it is not just the mere *fact* of disagreement with Berkhof that matters but the specific reasons *for* disagreement? In other words, proving disagreement with Berkhof and proving that Berkhof was correct are two very different things, right? Again, just clarifying and not at all seeking to stifle any discussion.

    1. David

      Yes, I can agree with you that the reasons for disagreement with Berkhof (assuming there *is* disagreement) are important, and that whether or not Berkhof is correct is also important. Before I get to those questions, however, I need to find out if (1) there is actually disagreement (I take it you believe there is) and (2) assuming there is disagreement, how Dr. Tipton can present his view as THE Reformed view. Is that fair enough?

    2. David

      To clear, I’m not here to criticize. I greatly respect Dr. Tipton and am going to weigh carefully everything he says. It would be difficult for me to disagree with him. The fact that he says Horton’s view is a Lutheran view with a Reformed overhaul (or something like that) is enough to cause me to ask some questions about Horton’s view. But I’m trying to get some orientation and clarification on these differences, and it would help me if I knew whether Dr. Tipton thought the same of Berkhof’s view (which, as far as I can see, is rather close to Horton’s).

      1. Jared O.

        Yes, totally understood. If I’m understanding Tipton correctly, I would think that his assessment of whether this view is Reformed depends on whether it is biblical, confessional, and in some sense whether it was underneath or even explicit in Calvin. If that’s the case, Berkhof, under these conditions, might be the one straying from the Reformed view in this particular instance.

    3. David

      I’ve posted the following once but it didn’t appear to show up. To clear, I’m not here to criticize. I greatly respect Dr. Tipton and am going to weigh carefully everything he says. It would actually be difficult for me to disagree with him. The fact that he says Horton’s view is a Lutheran view with a Reformed overhaul (or something like that) is enough to cause me to ask some questions about Horton’s view. But I’m trying to get some orientation and clarification on these differences, and it would help me if I knew whether Dr. Tipton thought the same of Berkhof’s view (which, as far as I can see, is rather close to Horton’s).

    4. The real question is whether or not Tipton’s view is in line with the Scriptures and the Reformed standards. Furthermore, is Tipton’s view closer to Rome than to the Reformation, including both Lutheranism and Calvinism? The answer is that both Gaffin and Tipton are guilty of Osiander’s heresy whereby justification and sanctification are deliberately confused for the sake of promoting sanctification as an infused righteousness as the basis for salvation. Unfortunately, the Bible unequivocally says that justification is the sine qua non of the Gospel. Sanctification is always imperfect and to emphasize union with Christ above justification by imputed righteousness is to in effect promote a Roman Catholic view of salvation and justification via the backdoor.

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  9. Kyle

    As much fun as it would be to have Horton on, as was mentioned in the show, I think it would be wise to bring a Lutheran on to discuss what they actually believe, rather than having Reformed guys sitting around talking about what we think they believe, teach, and confess. I know we would not like it if the tables were turned!

    Lets stop talking about (especially negatively, as seems to be the standard around here), and talk to!

    1. Jared O.

      To be fair, Tipton did mention his article in Justified in Christ (link above) and you can find where he directly quotes Lutheran systematicians on p.42f of that piece. So what Tipton is saying Lutherans believe is what historically Lutherans themselves have said they believe. The point of contention would probably surface when discussing specific implications from the Lutheran view, so maybe we can focus the conversation and discussion that way rather than abstaining from talking about other traditions regarding this topic.

    2. Tim

      Which Lutheran? Depending on who you talk with you may get a variety of answers. I agree that we should look to their confessional documents, but we can also interact with other writings (which I assume Dr. Tipton has ) from their theologians/systematicians who may go into greater detail to explain their positions.

      1. Exactly! Tipton completely ignores the fact the Melanchthon parted from Luther on certain issues, particularly the sovereignty of God in election and salvation. As recently as C.F.W. Walther’s time there was the controversy between the “crypto-Calvinists” and the “semi-Arminian” strains in Lutheranism. Walther represented the sovereignty of God view, btw, and was accused of being a “crypto-Calvinist”.

  10. Kyle


    Just a quick question, would it be appropriate for a Lutheran to dig into lets say WSCAL stuff on justification and then say “see thats what the reformed believe!”? Or would you like them to deal with your confessions? Maybe Tipton does deal with their confessions I dont know? It doesn’t seem like it.

    This has just always bugged me… that we dont deal with the Lutherans they way we would want them to engage with us is disappointing.

    For a quick example of why you should engage the confessions see here: http://justandsinner.blogspot.com/2011/10/lutherans-have-weak-view-of-sin.html

    “The point of contention would probably surface when discussing specific implications from the Lutheran view, so maybe we can focus the conversation and discussion that way rather than abstaining from talking about other traditions regarding this topic.”

    Honestly the problem is that just quoting them on a certain topic doesn’t mean you understand them, you must talk to them to get the big picture. You cant “talk about it” if you dont understand it. That is my only point.

    I once heard a quote that Robert Godfrey said at Concordia Seminary once, and it went something like this.
    “Thanks for inviting me here. It is important the we learn to talk to each other rather than about each other so that we can learn to hate each other with more accuracy!”

    Obviously it was a joke (to a degree) but we honestly wont get anywhere just talking about each other.

  11. Doing a bit of research on this material and I was intregued to come across this article from 2007:
    “The New Perspective on Calvin: Responding to Recent Calvin Interpretations by Thomas L. Wenger”

    The article takes on one of the central points of this RF episode on the centrality of Union with Christ in Calvin’s ordo salutis. The conclusion reads:

    “Summarily, the [New Perspective on Calvin] is not wrong to point out the importance that union with Christ plays in Calvin’s thought. It is obviously significant and any attempt to downplay it will to that degree interpret Calvin improperly. However, the 19th-century historiographic method of divining central dogmas in eras when no such preoccupation drove theological construction must be avoided by anyone who desires to paint a fair portrait of Calvin. Therefore not only is the notion that union with Christ is Calvin’s architectonic principle inaccurate, but so also the consequent attempts to redefine the relationship of justification and sanctification in his thought. Hence, it seems as though theological presuppositions have driven this interpretation of Calvin more than fair and accurate exegesis of his own words.”

    I’d be interested in you guys thoughts and interactions with these observations about the reading of Calvin presented in this episode. If the above essay is true, it of course wouldn’t undermine the legitimacy of claiming Scripture’s teaching on the matter, but does address the backdrop of presenting it as Calvin’s position. Just curious if this has been addressed or not.

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  13. Jeff Young

    Jacob, in this book from 2008: “The Theology of John Calvin” by Charles Partee. Partee makes the following remarks on page 41 which refer directly to Wenger’s article:

    “In a recent article Thomas L. Wenger identifies this view as the new perspective on Calvin and even dignifies it by its own initials (NPC). According to Wenger, the error of the NPC is in realigning the doctrines of justification and sanctification under the rubric of union with Christ. Loyal to the old perspective on Calvin (OPC), Wenger insists the NPC is wrong not only because its proponents (of which I am certainly one) utilize “erratic readings of Calvin,” but largely because they (we) do not agree with Richard Muller. Unfortunately Wenger limits his discussion to scholars who interact primarily with Richard B. Gaffin Jr. and Tim J. R. Trumper. Apparently for Wenger the famous baseball progression “from Tinker to Evers to Chance” has its theological parallel “from Oberman to Steinmetz to Muller.” I hope you find this helpful.

  14. David

    I post this in the spirit of continuing to try to reconcile Tipton and Berkhof, if possible (or at least determine more precisely the substance of their disagreement). Tipton says:

    If regeneration does not at least logically precede justification, then we are semi-Pelagians…. Regeneration is a necessary entailment of an Augustinian and Calvinist anthropology. Apart from the sovereign unilateral monergistic regeneration of God, faith is not possible. And justification is by? Faith! So, what I want to say first and foremost is this, and this is just—to coin a phrase here, well, it’s been used—here’s an exercise for aspiring theologians: When you hear justification presented in a way that it precedes or causes effectual calling or regeneration, you are listening to a semi-Pelagian soteriology.

    But Berkhof says:

    The sinner receives the initial grace of regeneration on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Consequently, the merits of Christ must have been imputed to him before his regeneration. But while this consideration leads to the conclusion that justification logically precedes regeneration, it does not prove the priority of justification in a temporal sense.


    In connection with the various movements in the work of application we should bear in mind that the judicial acts of God constitute the basis for His recreative acts, so that justification, though not temporally, is yet logically prior to all the rest

    It seems to me that Tipton and Berkhof are speaking of two different sorts of logical priority. For Tipton, for justification to be logically prior to regeneration would imply a deficient view of sin, since the totally depraved sinner cannot exercise justifying faith. But for Berkhof, justification must be prior to regeneration since the imputed merits of Christ are the judicial ground for all the blessings or salvation.

    The questions that I would like clarification from Tipton on is: What, in his view, is the judicial ground of regeneration? Isn’t it the imputed merits of Christ? And if so, wouldn’t this entail a particular kind of logical priority of justification?

    1. Jeff Young

      David, not to avoid the Berkhof quotes you have already pointed out, but have you dealt with Berkhof’s section…

      “All the blessings of saving grace lie ready for the Church in Christ; man can add nothing to them; and they now only await their subjective application by the operation of the Holy Spirit, which is also merited by Christ and is sure of progressive realization in the course of history,” and then section…


      “If the discussion of this aspect of the mystical union is taken up first of all in the ordo salutis, it should be borne in mind (a) that it would seem to be desirable to consider it in connection with what precedes it, ideally in the counsel of redemption, and objectively in the work of Christ; and (b) that the order is logical rather than chronological. Since the believer is “a new creature” (II Cor. 5:17), or is “justified” (Acts 13:39) only in Christ, union with Him logically precedes both regeneration and justification by faith, while yet, chronologically, the moment when we are united with Christ is also the moment of our regeneration and justification.”

      Does Berkhof not suggest here, explicitly, that Union with Christ ‘logically’ precedes both regeneration and justification by faith and that ‘chronologically,’ Union, regeneration, and justification are simultaneous? I don’t see the necessary tension between Berkhof’s position as stated here, and Dr. Tipton’s statement in this discussion that ?”Sanctification and Justification are distinct and separable, simultaneous realities for those who are brought into Union with Christ.” But I could be missing your point/concern entirely. If so, please excuse my presumptuous error.

      Just Thoughts

      1. David

        Jeff, I need a whole lot more clarity here, but I don’t think the issue is whether or not union has logical priority; I think all parties agree to that. I think the question (or one of them) is rather whether or not justification has logical priority over the other elements of the ordo. Berkhof explicitly gives justification logical priority over the entire ordo, even over regeneration. But Tipton argues that doing this is a semi-Pelagian move. Furthermore, when he discusses Horton’s claim that justification is the forensic basis for effectual calling, Tipton says he’s seen no precedent for this among the Reformed. And yet Berkhof clearly says it. That’s what baffles me.

  15. David

    “It has sometimes been asked—Whether Regeneration or Justification has the precedency in the order of nature? This is a question of some speculative interest, but of little practical importance. It relates to the order of our conceptions, not to the order of time; for it is admitted on all hands that the two blessings are bestowed simultaneously. The difficulties which have suggested it are such as these,—How God can be supposed, on the one hand, to bestow the gift of His Spirit on any one who is still in a state of wrath and condemnation,—and how He can be supposed, on the other hand, to justify any sinner while he is not united to Christ by that living faith which is implanted only by the Spirit of God? But such difficulties will be found to resolve themselves into a more general and profound question; and can only be effectually removed, by falling back on God’s eternal purpose of mercy towards sinners, which included equally their redemption by Christ, and their regeneration by His Spirit. The grand mystery is how God, who hates sin, could ever love any class of sinners,—and so love them, as to give His own Son to die for them, and His Holy Spirit to dwell in them. The relation which subsists, in respect of order, between Regeneration and Justification, is sufficiently determined, for all practical purposes, if neither is held to be prior or posterior to the other, in point of time,—and if it is clearly understood that they are simultaneous gifts of the same free grace; for then it follows,— that no unrenewed sinner is justified,—and that every believer, as soon as he believes, is pardoned and accepted of God.”

    —James Buchanan, The Doctrine of Justification

  16. David

    A.A. Hodge’s view appears to be much like Berkhof’s:

    “The second characteristic mark of Protestant soteriology is the principle that the change of relation to the law signalized by the term justification, involving remission of penalty and restoration to favor, necessarily precedes and renders possible the real moral change of character signalized by the terms regeneration and sanctification. The continuance of judicial condemnation excludes the exercise of grace in the heart. Remission of punishment must be preceded by remission of guilt, and must itself precede the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. Hence it must be entirely unconditioned upon any legal standing, or moral or gracious condition of the subject. We are pardoned in order that we may be good, never made good in order that we may be pardoned. We are freely made co-heirs with Christ in order that we may become willing co-workers with him, but we are never made co-workers in order that we may become co-heirs.

    “These principles are of the very essence of Protestant soteriology. To modify, and much more, of course, to ignore or to deny them, destroys absolutely the thing known as Protestantism, and ought to incur the forfeiture of all recognized right to wear the name.”

    —A.A. Hodge, The Ordo Salutis

  17. David

    More from A.A. Hodge:

    “Thus it follows that the satisfaction and merit of Christ are the antecedent cause of regeneration; and yet, nevertheless, the participation of the believer in the satisfaction and merit of Christ (i.e., his justification) is conditioned upon his faith, which in turn is conditioned upon his regeneration. He must have part in Christ so far forth as to be regenerated in order to have part in him so far forth as to be justified.

    “This question is obviously one as to order, not of time, but of cause and effect. All admit, (1) That the satisfaction and merit of Christ are the necessary precondition of regeneration and faith as directly as of justification; (2) That regeneration and justification are both gracious acts of God; (3) That they take place at the same moment of time. The only question is, What is the true order of causation? Is the righteousness of Christ imputed to us that we may believe, or is it imputed to us because we believe? Is justification an analytic judgment, to the effect that this man, though a sinner, yet being a believer, is justified? Or is it a synthetic judgment, to the effect that this sinner is justified for Christ’s sake. Our catechism suggests the latter by the order of its phrases. God justifies us, ‘only for the righteousness of Christ, imputed to us, and received by faith alone.’ The same seems to be included in the very act of justifying faith itself, which is the trustful recognition and embrace of Christ, who had previously ‘loved me, and given himself for me’ (Gal. 2:20).”

  18. David

    Yet more from A.A. Hodge:

    “By consequence, the imputation of Christ’s righteous to us is the necessary precondition of the restoration to us of the influences of the Holy Ghost, and that restoration leads by necessary consequence to our regeneration and sanctification.

    “The notion that the necessary precondition of the imputation to us of Christ’s righteousness is our own faith, of which the necessary precondition is regeneration, is analogous to the rejected theory that the inherent personal moral corruption of each of Adam’s descendants is the necessary precondition of the imputation of his guilt to them. On the contrary, if the imputation of guilt is the causal antecedent of inherent depravity, in like manner the imputation of righteousness must be the causal antecedent of regeneration and faith.”

    1. Sheesh

      maybe David is really Charlie (or “Charllie”) – has anybody looked into this? – I mean, nobody can drop as many consecutive comments as sweet baby Ray (except maybe Drake S.)

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  20. Jared Oliphint

    Thanks for the selections, David. I think there is definitely some discussion to be had regarding Berkhof and Hodge’s conception of the ordo.

    I think where I get frustrated is the theological methodology that frequently comes from those who prioritize justification. The first line of defense or demonstration of a point seems to be, “But this other Reformed guy said this.” I hope it goes without saying that to get to the heart of these issues requires first and foremost an exegetical case, a biblical-theological case, and a non-speculative systematic theological case that is rooted in Scripture. What Tipton is attempting to do in this episode is not to say that every person you’ve read in the Reformed tradition agrees at every point with what he’s saying for the ordo. But if you follow the specifics of what he says in quoting Scripture, the WCF, and Calvin, the discussion needs to be addressed at those points. Again, I’m all for the discussion of whether the ordo that Tipton explains is in full agreement with Berkhof or Hodge, I’m just always surprised when this is the first thought from someone who hears the specifics of the argument. Let’s say Tipton differs from Hodge and Berkhof. That may be somewhat important, but where the discussion seems to be more fruitful involves the *reasons* for disagreement on the ordo. And those reasons need to address the specific exegetical, systematic and confessional points Tipton made throughout the episode.

  21. Mark Mcculley

    We can (and should) agree that the atonement is not the same as the justification, and that neither are the same as the decree to atone and justify. But that agreement does not eliminate the need to define what “application” of the atonement means. Or, as David has suggested, that still doesn’t tell us the order of the application. Is God’s imputation of the righteousness logically first or is God’s gift of faith first?

    Many would dismiss this discussion as much about nothing. Since none of us believe in eternal justification, and none of us deny the need for regeneration, who cares if justification or regeneration is logically first? But obviously Tipton cares. And we should care, because the question about order is a question about definition. How is the “reconciliation received” (Romans 5:11, 17)

    After he agrees to an aspect of union by election, Gaffin from then on assumes that the application of reconciliation is by faith. But Horton (and Bruce McCormack) argues that the reconciliation is received by God’s imputation with faith as the immediate result. If you take a look at Romans 5:11 and 17, you find a passive receiving. And there’s nothing more passive than a legally dead ungodly sinner being baptized by God (without hands) into the death of Christ.

    I sincerely don’t want to attribute bad motives to either side. I suppose Tipton is only saying that folks like Horton are unwitting “semi-Pelagians”. Does this mean that I can say that Tipton sometimes sound like he doesn’t believe that Christ’s atonement outside of us is the decisive difference between life and death?

    It sounds to me as if Tipton is saying: sure, we agree with particular atonement, we don’t deny that, but right now let’s don’t talk about God’s justice in the atonement for the sins of the elect, let’s just talk about God’s sovereign love. But there is NEVER any love of God for sinners apart from the justice of Christ’s atonement. God is ALWAYS both just AND justifier of the ungodly.

    If the ungodly are already “logically” believers before they are justified, they are already “logically” godly before they are justified.

  22. David

    Thanks, Jared. I’m glad you agree that there’s discussion to be had regarding Berkhof’s and Hodge’s conception. I also agree (yes, it goes without saying) that the case ultimately has to be made from Scripture. But Dr. Tipton claimed to be presenting “the Reformed view” over against “the Lutheran view,” and he leveled some pretty strong charges (e.g., semi-Pelagianism) against those in the contemporary Reformed scene who differ from him. Yet, his charges appear to also stick to Reformed stalwarts like Hodge and Berkhof. I am sure you recognize that having “the Reformed view” entails that other Reformed theologians agree with you, hence my citations from Berkhof, Buchanan and Hodge.

    1. Jared Oliphint

      David, I have to stress again that I think what Tipton means by “Reformed view” is not “what other prominent figures in the tradition have also thought” but a view that is consistent with Reformed principles that I (partially) described in my previous comment. And again, the consistency of the view outlined in this episode with those Reformed principles is of first importance. I also want to be heard loud and clear: I am not advocating that anyone should ignore prominent historical figures or works within the Reformed tradition, but the Reformed tradition itself is crystal clear that those figures and works are subordinate to Scripture. So the argument against Tipton may not hold much water if all that is achieved is noticing a difference between his view and other views of Reformed figures. And IF Tipton is right and IF Berkhof and Hodge are in fact saying something different, it is Berkhof and Hodge who are inconsistent with Calvin, the WCF, and Scripture itself. I have no doubt that Hodge believed he was confessional; I’m sure the same goes for everything he published. The question is why he believed so and whether in fact that was the case, given the specific points made in this episode.

      1. And if Gordon H. Clark is right and the Van Tilians are wrong, then it could be that Tipton is merely espousing confusing self-contradictory goulash. How can Tipton accuse Mike Horton of semi-pelagianism while saying that Arminians deny the doctrine of justification by faith alone yet “Remonstrandt Arminians are going to heaven”????

        The fact that Tipton attacks Horton and Fesko and approves of Gaffin and Murray is proof enough that his sympathies lie with neonomianism and even semi-Arminianism.

    2. Again, Tipton and Gaffin are innovators. They represent a neo-legalist view invented by modern “new perspectives on Paul and Calvin” movement. This might explain why Norman Shepherd’s legacy continues at WTS PA and why so many Federal Visionists have been totally exonerated in the PCA and the OPC. How the mighty have fallen!

      1. Charlie,

        Have you read Gaffin’s By Faith, Not by Sight? It’s a critique of the New Perspective on Paul. Let me also encourage you to find a copy of Gaffin’s debate with N. T. Wright on the subject. I find it incredibly irresponsible to claim that Gaffin or Tipton hold to views similar to the NPP.

        Tipton’s position is not anywhere close to Osiander’s. He roots his understanding of the relationship of justification to sanctification squarely in Calvin’s conception of the duplex gratia Dei. They are distinct, yet inseparable benefits. This is nothing new.

  23. David,

    It seems that Tipton is viewing justification as logically following faith. On this understanding if we put justification before regeneration then we do fall into a semi-pelagian scheme.

    Berkhof is viewing justification as logically preceding regeneration and faith. He thus does not fall into a semi-pelagian scheme, but rather an antinomian scheme. While he is Reformed, his formulations on this point are not, at least according to the WCF.

  24. David

    Actually, it’s the WSC, not the WCF, that Hodge references:

    “This question is obviously one as to order, not of time, but of cause and effect. All admit, (1) That the satisfaction and merit of Christ are the necessary precondition of regeneration and faith as directly as of justification; (2) That regeneration and justification are both gracious acts of God; (3) That they take place at the same moment of time. The only question is, What is the true order of causation? Is the righteousness of Christ imputed to us that we may believe, or is it imputed to us because we believe? Is justification an analytic judgment, to the effect that this man, though a sinner, yet being a believer, is justified? Or is it a synthetic judgment, to the effect that this sinner is justified for Christ’s sake. Our catechism suggests the latter by the order of its phrases. God justifies us, ‘only for the righteousness of Christ, imputed to us, and received by faith alone.'”

  25. It seems to me that we need to define “logical” here. In what sense can we say that justification logically precedes regeneration? Is it in the sense that Jesus provided for our justification in the historia salutis by his once and for all finished work in his death and resurrection? Is it that God regenerates us on the basis of the fact that he has “in heaven” decreed to justify us in time? If so, no problems, all would agree. But then we are back to a temporal question. The eternal decree and the historia salutis are temporally prior to the ordo salutis. And in terms of the decree and in terms of the historia, we don’t have a problem saying that justification has a temporal priority. Tipton even qualified himself by saying as much. But if we are talking exclusively of the ordo salutis, in what way can we speak of a priority of justification by faith to regeneration? Is it that God regenerates us because he decreed that he will eventually justify us or that he has provided our justification already in the historia salutis? If so, that is not clear in Horton. However, if it is that in terms of how the order of salvation takes place in the real-time life of the believer, you cannot say justification by faith precedes regeneration without being a semi-Pelagian. Its simply impossible. Dropping citations from theologians will not settle the issue. The burden is on the other side to explain in what sense are these theologians using logical priority. Flesh that out and maybe we can have a meeting of the minds. In other words, explain how giving justification priority over regeneration does not yield semi-Pelagianism.

    1. David

      Dear Rev. Cassidy,

      Thanks for the interaction. I appreciate the distinctions you’re making between redemption planned, accomplished and applied. I also appreciate your contention that the notion that justification by faith precedes regeneration in the ordo entails semi-Pelagianism.

      But to restate the dilemma I’m wrestling with: We are not justified until we believe, yet in the initial stages of the application of redemption (effectual calling and regeneration), we are still (ostensibly) under the wrath of God.

      The following may be either overly elementary or overly speculative or just plain wrong, so please bear with me. In the interests of trying to better understand where you and others here are coming from (and maybe how you deal with the above dilemma), I’ve been pondering, and the only plausible solution that suggests itself to me (that you might be happy with) is that the initial stages of the application of redemption do not, properly speaking, confer actual benefits of Christ. Is this how you understand things? (It seems to me that this would jibe with your thesis that all the benefits of Christ are received only in union with Him–which I don’t contest–wouldn’t it?) If this is, in fact, the case, then these initial stages of the ordo would perhaps not need to be forensically undergirded by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness (whether viewed either as eternal, objective or subjective).

      To flesh this out a little more, what I’m thinking is that neither effectual calling nor faith should be thought of as benefits of Christ. Rather, effectual calling is merely the opening of the eyes and renewing of the will that enables a spiritually dead sinner to receive Christ and His benefits, and faith is the empty hand that actually reaches out and grasps Christ and His benefits. But neither of them are themselves actual benefits.

      What do you think, am I on the right track?

    2. David

      Crickets. Okay, no problem, I guess my worst fears are confirmed. Scrap the above. What do you think of this formulation: The forensic basis for the application of redemption is not the imputation of Christ’s rightousness in the ordo (i.e., justification). Rather, it is the merit of Christ’s accomplishment in the historia salutis. Is this fair to say?

    3. David

      But if we are talking exclusively of the ordo salutis, in what way can we speak of a priority of justification by faith to regeneration?

      No one is talking about a priority of justification by faith to regeneration. But apparently, for John Owen (and others), the justification of the sinner is logically prior to his regeneration because the making of someone alive with Christ is inconsistent with his being still under the wrath of God:

      “… for what is that love of God which through Christ is effectual to bestow faith upon the unbelieving? and how can so great love, in the actual exercise of it, producing the most distinguishing mercies, consist with any such act of God’s will as at the same instant should bind that person under the guilt of sin?

  26. David,

    Here is what WLC 71 says: “… and requiring nothing of them for their justification but faith…” Faith is required for justification. Justification, therefore, does not precede faith but follows faith.

  27. Dale Olzer

    Can a reformed person say the following with out getting beat up by Machen’s Warrior Children 🙂

    Regeneration, is the new birth/new heart (John 3:3-6), (Ezekiel 36:26), where the person who was once rebelling against God, now has a desire for Christ.

    And definitive sanctification is the once and for all break from sin and the power of the devil where by the regenerated person is transferred from being a slave to sin, to a slave for righteousness. (Romans 6:5-12).

    All this would entail the following:

    Regeneration is the new birth where by a person by God’s grace can and does exercise faith. A faith that trusts in Christ, rests in Christ, and receives Christ, all of Christ.

    And by receiving Christ by Faith, is Justified by the imputed righteousness of Christ, and is definitively sanctified by Christ and Christ’s power and defeat over sin and the devil.

    So the basic difference between Regeneration and Definitive Sanctification is, regeneration gives us the New Birth and Definitive Sanctification smashes the bond of sins power.

    1. Mark G

      Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
      (Hebrews 6:1-2 ESV)

      Now, that we (i.e., the eschatalogical brotherhood & time travelers from the eschaton) have that worked out maybe we can move on to union with our great high priest seated at the the right hand of the Majesty on high to think about what it means to be citizens of heaven and participants in the powers of the age to come.

  28. MikeD

    I’m about half way through so forgive me if this is addressed. So Tipton can say that God justifies the ungodly, even though we are regenerate at the moment of justification seeing that we do not match up to God’s law and we are still wretches. But, and this is my question, we cannot say that God justifies the totally depraved? Yes, person X who is totally depraved may ultimately be justified by God (evidently clear), but there is no person who is totally depraved at the moment of justification since they already have a new heart of flesh.. right? Just seeking clarity. Thanks.

  29. Pingback : Justification of the Ungodly | Patrick’s Pensees

  30. Jonathan Brack

    I think a helpful way to think about the “justification of the ungodly” in Romans 4 is from a Doctrine of God perspective. What is justification? It is a declaration of righteousness. Can God lie? Answer: No. So God declares what is unrighteous to be righteous. How can He do this if he is God and he cannot lie? Answer: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us IN CHRIST with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places”
    The only other way we can side step the priority of Union is to conjure up some wacky “speech act theory” for justification. I honestly don’t see the Confessions or Scripture appealing to an illocutionary speech act in the strict sense becasue it makes God out to be a liar. Yes, God justifies the ungodly. But the next question should be “How?” Saying that God justifies the ungodly BY an illocutionary declaration at the ungodly is the exact same thing as saying God justifies the ungodly BY God justifying the ungodly. In other words, it is only descriptive, not explanatory to the question of “HOW?”

    If Christ is raised for our justification, are we to take that in the sense that Jesus was raised so the God could make a declaration about people APART from his Son? NO! We have died with Christ and we have been raised with Christ, thus we have been Justified IN CHRIST. I don’t know if that helped or not, but it is how I think about it. Oh yea, and well done Dr. Tipton!

    1. MikeD

      I’m not sure where I stand on the issue and Dr. Tipton made some fine points for me to chew on. But as to your comment, Jonathan, it’s not that those on the other side of the issue say that the justification of God the Father is APART from His Son… not at all. The ground of justification is the righteousness of Christ, His passive and active obedience as made under the law. Capitalizing IN CHRIST could very well be capitalized as BY CHRIST also, could it not?

      1. Jonathan Brack

        Yea, that’s the problem …
        For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
        How does one get around this verse?

  31. Andrew Cas

    Hi guys (Reformed Forum team), thanks for the show really good and enjoyable as always keep up the good work. The Lord has given you a great gifting am I’m thankful your using His gifts for His glory.

    I have a couple of things to say…

    It would be great to get A desscuion going between Westminster Cal. And Phily. On this topic possibly like the Christ and Cluture thing that was done.

    Now a question… Does this understanding of Justification bypass The New Perspective of Paul objections towards the ‘Luthern’ view of Justification?

  32. I’m wondering how Tipton can with a straight face say that justification by faith ALONE is essential doctrine for salvation and then absolutely reverse himself and say that the Remonstrandt Arminians, who he admits REJECT this doctrine, are going to heaven? Why stop there? I guess the Roman Catholic semi-pelagian idolaters are saved as well? And why stop there? I guess everyone with any empty and doctrineless profession of faith in the “person” of Christ is saved?

    If salvation is based on the “person” of Christ as in mystical encounter, apart from the doctrinal propositions defining who that person is and what that person taught propositionally and doctrinally, then how does your view differ essentially from Barthianism or irrationalism? This flows naturally from Van Til’s theology of paradox and analogical theology, which is never logically valid according to Gordon H. Clark.

    I found it particularly laughable when Tipton accuses Horton of being more Lutheran than Calvinist. The fact of the matter is that it is Van Til’s theology that has produced neo-nomianism, the Federal Vision, theonomy, reconstruction, and various other heresies akin to semi-pelagianism and Romanism.

    It is indeed a sad day to see the Gospel being so overtly attacked at Westminster Seminary, PA. J. Gresham Machen would be rolling over in his grave since he held that Arminianism is indeed a heresy.

    Charlie J. Ray

  33. I might add that Tipton’s claim that union with Christ is first in the Reformed ordo salutis is misplaced. The Canons of Dort begin with Unconditional Election for good reason. Unconditional election is first in the golden chain of salvation AND salvation is absolutely based on that first link in the chain. God does not elect on the basis of foreseen levels of sanctification or holiness but solely on the basis of mercy and His sovereign choice. Even Zwingli saw this as can be seen in his piece on infant baptism and unconditional election as the basis of such baptism of infants.

      1. I have no seriously misunderstood that Tipton said that “union with Christ” is primary in the ordo salutis, implying that it is first. Also, any view that downplays justification by faith alone and emphasizes union with Christ above that doctrine is in essence agreeing with Osiander’s view of justification. Calvin himself said that faith working by love has nothing to do with justification. (See his commentary on Galatians 5:6)

        The muddled thinking in this program is due to the contradictions inherent in Van Til’s theology.

      2. Clive Davis

        Charlie, it appears you’ve misspelled your own name in your last comment. Perhaps you might consider pausing to reflect on your comments and reread them before posting. On that note, would you care to elaborate your fairly broad and unsubstantiated claims regarding the relationship of Van Til’s theology to Dr. Tipton’s formulation of union with Christ?

        Moreover, a renewed emphasis on union with Christ does not necessarily downplay the doctrine of justification by grace through faith. Dr. Tipton emphasized this several times in the discussion. Indeed, how does the grace of justification come to us in the first place? It’s only in Christ. How are the elect found to be in Christ other than by being united to him by faith through the Spirit? This is nothing new to confessional Reformed theology.

        Finally, election and effectual calling come first. This is a no brainer and affirmed multiple times throughout the discussion (if one had ears to hear).

      3. Charlie,

        Dr. Tipton’s entire criticism of Dr. Horton’s views was founded upon the ordering of election, regeneration / effectual calling, then union with Christ, then the benefits that manifest union (justification, sanctification, and adoption). The noted inconsistency he had with Dr. Horton’s argument in Covenant and Salvation was that justification acts as the forensic basis of calling.

        For Tipton, if justification somehow precedes effectual calling / regeneration, and justification is still by faith, then faith precedes regeneration. This is structurally akin to the Arminian position. Tipton asked for greater clarity on what it means for justification to be the forensic basis of calling without resolving to this problem.

        If he holds to the type of view your ascribe to him, why does his criticism take this form?

      4. hughuenot

        But does Tipton talk of election? We ought to make much of it.

        Further, if he was critiquing Horton (or anyone else) he’d have gone long way toward clarity had he cited & interacted with what he disagrees with, and stayed away from vague references and the near-slanderous charges of semi-pelagianism or crypto-Lutheranism.

      5. hughuenot

        In my reply of Dec. 21 at 12:14pm, I was thinking not of your above audio (congrats on 200+ episodes, BTW!), but of three Youtube videos Lane has on union that do not make much of election, nor deals specifically with Horton.
        My apologies.

  34. hughuenot

    Prior to our 2nd birth, prior to our 1st birth, prior to Calvary, prior to the fall, prior to creation,

    was/is Eph. 1:4 election, and Rom. 8:29 foreknowledge.

    Back of it all: calling, creation, election, fall, glorification, justification, predestination, regeneration,

    was/ is love. Jer. 31:3, Eph. 2:4, Rom. 5:8, & John 3:16 love.

  35. Camden,

    The application of justification most definitely comes through the instrument of faith, which is itself a gift of God. Anyone who has read Charles Hodge or the Westminster Confession of Faith knows this. It is Reformed theology 101. Basically, however, Tipton’s critique of Horton and others is a straw man at best and a non sequitur at worst. Justification has been decreed for the elect prior to their birth and hence in that sense it is an “eternal justification” provided for beforehand, before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4-5, 11). Tipton’s accusation that Horton and the Lutherans are semi-pelagians because of an alleged justification by faith prior to regeneration would be justified IF that is what they teach. It isn’t, therefore, it is a straw man argument and Tipton ought to know better. I might agree that modern Lutherans in general have some tendencies in the semi-pelagian direction, namely their insistence on common grace. Modern Lutherans, including the late Walther, do not insist on logical consistency. One could legitimately argue that Luther himself rejected common grace if we read his section on the sovereignty of God in The Bondage of the Will.

    I would argue that the neo-Kuyperian doctrine of the free offer and common grace is semi-Arminian and therefore a proto-semi-pelagianism. On that score Horton, Tipton and both WSCal and WS PA are semi-Arminians and thus have semi-pelagian tendencies.

    The problem I have with making the union with Christ the penultimate focus of Reformed soteriology is that it focuses on an existential/mystical union, which is subjective. The Westminster Confession does not begin with theology from below. It begins with Scripture, where all good theology should begin. The focus is on God and the eternal decrees. Your contention that salvation is 100% God and 100% man implies synergism, not monergism. Salvation is ALL of God. Calvin and Luther both agreed. All this focus on moralism, human responsibility, etc. is true to a degree but to make it the end all and be all of Reformed theology ultimately leads to the very antinomianism and liberalism you pretend to combat. If you don’t think so, take a hard look at the PCUSA and other mainline denominations that once were bastions of moral rectitude.

    The fact is God will not share His glory with any man. To give credence to the theonomists/reconstructionists/post millennialists is to deny total depravity and to focus on an overly optimistic view of man. What I keep hearing on this program is humanistic optimism, not the doctrines of grace.

    Despite the continual misrepresentation of Gordon H. Clark’s theology on this program, the fact is Clark was not an antinomian or a rationalist. His theology was focused primarily on defending divine and special revelation in Holy Scripture as THE word of God. There is no disjunction between the inspired word of God in written form and what God intended for us to understand of His thoughts.

    Since God predetermined from all eternity to justify His elect by the particular atonement of Christ, there is indeed a sense in which the elect are “eternally” justified. The application of that justification in the elect is through the instrument of faith, preceded by regeneration. Since faith itself is a gift, man does not get credit for believing either. In fact, progressive sanctification itself is not synergistic as some Reformed folks insist. Even progressive sanctification is itself an absolutely monergistic work of God in the elect. That we are responsible to obey is beside the point.

    BTW, I’m thankful to Carl Trueman for pointing out that the term “Reformed” is not reified. There is a great diversity with the wider Reformed tradition. WS PA doesn’t speak for everyone.

    Soli Deo Gloria


  36. Rupert, REC

    Amazing to see, that after 500 years you blokes still don’t get justification of ungodly. If Christ were united logically prior to justification at the moment of regeneration, then you have God justifying the definitively sanctified. What?! Contrary to the plain reading of Scripture.

    Maybe the problem arises from Murray and his view that justification is declarative because it is constitutive. You blokes are the semi-Pelagians, not the fellas on the West Coast. How many Norman Shepherd’s does WTS need before it realizes it has lost all confessional integrity? Shepherd blinding Clowney, blinding all but the HT guys and O. Palmer Robertson (good chaps!). Your methodology is flawed. Cartesian causality through and through

    1. Sheesh

      Amazing to see, that after 1500 years there are “blokes” like Rupert who still don’t understand semi-Pelagianism. Also, did Tipton really argue that definitive sanctification is logically prior to justification, or is Rupert just makin’ stuff up?

      1. Rupert, REC

        Is Definitive Sanctification at the moment of Regeneration or Sanctification? It is the former according to the ‘New Perspective on Calvin’ folks, in line with Murray recasting the ordo salutis (if there is such a thing as def. sant., which is highly debatable). Regeneration (ala effectual calling) is the place of mystical union. Listen more carefully my chap, Sheesh.

        Tipton and Gaffin posit progressive sanctification as equally ultimate with justification, both rooted in existential union with Christ which is made at the effectual call and regeneration.

        Also, how in all of God’s good green earth does justification of the ungodly apart from any relational, transformative, or legal righteousness equal semi-Pelagainism? It seems the other side of the argument is semi-Pelagian. Read Francis Turretin in his third Volume in his section on Justification against the Papist Bellarmine and see what I mean.


  37. Ben

    If I remember correctly, Tipton stated that definitive sanctification and justification are distinct yet simultaneous events. Can someone else confirm this?

    1. Jon

      Yea, He did say this. No one get a sliver of Christ at point A and then the rest if there good at point B. They get the whole thing or nothing. They get all the benefits at once or nothing. in him we have every spiritual blessing.

      1. Sheesh

        Right you are Jon! Our mate Rupert would like us to think that we get the benefits of Christ in a sequence of partial installments. But this is to divide Christ! In all fairness, though, I don’t think Rupert (or his muses at WSC) would say that we get the further installments based upon the condition of our being good. They would say, rather, that the later bits of our salvation all flow from the first bits (namely, justification) as necessary consequences.

  38. Rupert, REC

    Ahh, Sheesh! There it is, you are working within Cartesian causal terms and trying to overcome it with Schweitzer’s personal-relational dilemma. If only you understood the pre-Critical uses (plural) of causality, you would know what you were talking about and how the Reformed (and the orthodox) have always said Justification is the Cause of Sanctification. Clearly, you have never read them, but then again you are thinking in Newtonian and Cartesian terms of causality as implied in your understanding of ‘bits’. Calvin himself used this phraseology of Justification causing sanctification. But my guess is you have only read his Institutes and Garcia’s terrible reconstruction and accommodated Calvin like most of Christendom. But thanks for playing!

    1. Excellent comments, Rupert. The fact is Tipton’s view is that of Osiander, who also confused justification and sanctification and made them “infused”. The distinction between an alien imputed righteousness and an infused righteousness via progressive sanctification is a distinction fundamental to the Gospel itself. In fact, it caused the Protestant Refomation! To emphasize the doctrine of union with Christ as some sort of mystical and existential encounter rather than a union based on faith and believing correct doctrine is essentially the papist error. Our union with Christ comes from simply believing the propositional truth claims of the Gospel and what Jesus and Paul teach in logical propositions. It is not a Neo-Orthodox existentialism.

    1. My point stands—perhaps even more firmly than before. Please listen to and read the man’s own criticisms of the NPP and the salient features of the FV before making specious claims about his theology. We owe it to him as Christian brothers.

  39. Camden said

    The noted inconsistency he had with Dr. Horton’s argument in Covenant and Salvation was that justification acts as the forensic basis of calling.

    For Tipton, if justification somehow precedes effectual calling / regeneration, and justification is still by faith, then faith precedes regeneration. This is structurally akin to the Arminian position. Tipton asked for greater clarity on what it means for justification to be the forensic basis of calling without resolving to this problem.

    If he holds to the type of view your ascribe to him, why does his criticism take this form?

    Horton’s logical proposition is that justification is forensic and provides the basis for regeneration, effectual calling, and conversion on the basis that without the particular atonement for the elect none of that would be logically or theologically possible in the first place. Even Herman Hoeksema called this an “eternal justification”. Scripture says that Christ is the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world”. That’s the literal rendering when modern translators do not read their own theology back into the text. (Cf. Rev. 13:8 NKJ with Rev. 13:8 ESV).

    To accuse Horton’s view of being semi-pelagian would require that Horton held to universal atonement, which he obviously does not. Therefore one can infer that Tipton wishes to create a straw man to deflect criticism of his own departure from the Westminster Standards which say emphatically the very opposite of what Gaffin and Tipton claim for the doctrine of “union of Christ”:

    Chapter 11: Of Justification

    1. Those whom God effectually calleth He also freely justifieth;1 not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous: not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone: nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience, to them as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them,2 they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness, by faith: which faith they have not of themselves; it is the gift of God.3

    See also: WLC 70 | WSC 33

    Furthermore, the union with Christ is based on faith, not a fusion of natures in some mystical encounter. Therefore, any idea of an existential encounter that makes justification subjective is inherently the error of the Manichees and Osiander as Calvin emphatically refuted that view. There is no infusion of God’s divinity or righteousness into the believer on the basis of “union with Christ” since that union is by faith or intellectual assent to the doctrines and logical propositions essential to salvation. Faith is not irrational but is a set system of logical beliefs outlined in Scripture (Jude 1:3) and systematized in the Westminster Standards, the Three Forms of Unity and even the Anglican Formularies.

    For all practical purposes what Tipton and Gaffin do is make forensic justification adiaphora and “mystical union with Christ” essential. It is a deliberately ambiguous fusing of objective justification with subjective infusion, i.e. sanctification.

    While sanctification does follow justification, even Hodge says that justification is the ground for sanctification and not vice versa. Therefore to so link justification and sanctification in the doctrine of union that justification loses its status as the sine qua non of the Gospel is not to refute the Lutheran view as Tipton asserts–it is in fact to assert the Roman Catholic view of infused righteousness and to confuse faith and works. In short, it makes obedience the basis for justification rather than justification being the basis for obedience.

    WCF 11:1 absolute refutes everything Tipton has to say about “union with Christ” in this discussion.

    The Thirty-nine Articles likewise refutes Tipton and Gaffin’s view:

    Article XI
    Of the Justification of Man
    We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort; as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.

    Article XII
    Of Good Works
    Albeit that good works, which are the fruits of faith and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins and endure the severity of God’s judgement, yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith, insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.

    Good works are the evidence of a credible profession of faith before men. They do not and cannot put away our sins in any sense whatsoever, not even in the doctrine of “union with Christ”. Unfortunately, that is what Tipton and Gaffin’s view implies. We are after all just forgiven.


    1. Charlie, I believe you’re wide of the mark on Gaffin’s and Tipton’s view. If you continue to refuse to read Gaffin’s own writing on the subject in By Faith, Not By Sight at least listen to his interview on the gospel and sanctification. You can download it here. Good works are never the ground of justification—or even simultaneous with it. Gaffin affirms this throughout calling it a “no brainer.”

      The sanctification that is simultaneous, yet distinct and inseparable with justification is definitive sanctification (cf. Rom 6; 1 Cor 1:2; 1:30; 6:11 – By Faith, Not By Sight pp. 58ff and Resurrection and Redemption, p. 41ff and 124-126). Tipton and Gaffin refer to the believer’s death with Christ and the breach of the power of sin in that event. Sin is a twofold problem: both guilt and corruption. A transformation is required to deal with the corruption.

      I sense that you have rather small view of sanctification. You can’t exhaust the notion of the Spirit’s work in sanctification as simply “doing good works.” Did your good works crucify you with Christ? Have you died to sin because of what you did? Yet you are 100% correct to affirm that good works are the result and evidence of justification—as well as the other aspects of the Spirit’s work in a believer’s life. Progressive sanctification, on the other hand, is the Spirit’s continued work in a believer’s life such that they put to death the deeds of the body and do good works. These works, though done in the Spirit, are neither merit nor contribute to justification in any way.

      To claim that Gaffin’s and Tipton’s view of union with Christ doesn’t require atonement or the imputation of Christ’s active and passive obedience is extremely unfortunate. The forensic aspect of the gospel is essential. Without justification in which believers receive the imputed active and passive obedience of Christ, they have no merit and no pardon of sins. Christ’s work does not accrue to them. The important point here, however, is that Calvin’s construction of the duplex gratia dei, which Gaffin and Tipton are presenting, protects the forensic from becoming a renovative category. Justification, as forensic, is entirely extrinsic. It strictly deals with the guilt of sin. It doesn’t change your condition, but remedies your status. But praise God that the salvation we receive in Christ is a full salvation. Our savior not only delivers us from sin’s guilt, but also from its corruption. I don’t know about you, but I’m happy to be united to such a savior.

      1. Our savior not only delivers us from sin’s guilt, but also from its corruption.

        So you believe in sinless perfection after conversion and that there is no remaining corruption of the old man in the new creation? Paul disagrees with that. Obviously Romans 7 says otherwise.

        To focus on sanctification above all else as Tipton does, is essentially neo-legalism. Everyone is a sinner. This is why good works before faith do not justify. It’s also why good works after faith do not justify. Good works are done to please God and out of gratitude. No amount of good works can earn favor with God. That’s why the laborers in the field all receive the same reward. It’s the same reason the prodigal son receives the same favor as the elder brother.

        Pharisees always want to point to themselves and their accomplishments rather than pointing to God’s mercy and His pardon of sins. The fact is the worst criminal on death row can be saved while the most holy works of a Mother Teresa deserve hell because they are not done in faith.


      2. The deliverance from the twofold problem of sin is eschatological. I reject perfectionism as Tipton, Gaffin, and anyone else subscribing to the Westminster Standards does (WCF 13.2). Christ offers a full salvation from sin—that includes complete deliverance from its corruption as well. But that salvation is not consummated until the believer dies or the Lord returns (cf. 1 Cor 15:50-56; Heb 12:14).

        I desire to interact, but I struggle to continue to have to answer these types of questions that frequently overlook basic features of confessional Reformed theology. Just read the quote again: “Our savior not only delivers us from sin’s guilt, but also from its corruption.” Do you believe in the resurrection? Is that simply deliverance from guilt? Please, I urge you to pick up a few books on the subject. For instance, read Sinclair Ferguson’s The Christian Life, Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied, Gaffin’s Resurrection and Redemption, or any decent systematic theology (Bavinck, Hodge, Turretin).

  40. Pingback : Dr. Michael Horton responds to Dr. Lane G. Tipton’s charge of semi-pelagianism | Pilgrimage to Geneva

  41. Bill

    Wow! Lutherans are pelagians or semi-pelagians? This is enough for me. First time I’ve heard this. I have to admit that I have heard reformed theologians call arminians semi-pelagians, but never heard anybody call lutherans semi-pelagians. Most interesting of all is that this bizarre conclusions are arrived at by PHD’s. There’s a reason why the bible was written by uneducated men, none of the apostles had a university degree or higher education.

    1. Bill, the semi-pelagian comparison came up for schemes that would allow for faith to precede regeneration. That is structurally similar to semi-pelagianism. Would you agree? People would have some innate ability to respond to the gospel before the Spirit effectually renews their minds and wills.

      Dr. Tipton’s concern over this similarity arose over comments Dr. Horton makes on pp. 129-130 of his book Covenant and Salvation, in which he calls justification the source of calling, regeneration, sanctification, and glorification. If justification is the source, and justification is by faith, how then does faith not precede [in some sense] regeneration, etc.? Dr. Horton responds to this question in episode 207 by saying he wouldn’t want to use the language of “source” today. Moreover, it seemed clear to me and others who listened that Dr. Horton also distinguished between a justification that is declaration and justification that is by faith on account of the imputed righteousness of Christ.

      1. Jeffrey Gordon

        Having listened to Horton a lot, I believe his concern in prioritizing the forensic aspect of union with Christ over any mystical or ontological union with Christ (a position that he reaffirms in his more recent Christian Faith), is that the ground of that union (i.e., the basis on which my subjective participation in Christ, “how” I am in a state of union with Him) always remains the saving work of Christ (His incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension) outside of me and never shifts or transitions to the ground of Christ’s “renovative” work in me, let alone any aspect of my “attendant human response” to that work.

        I’m not sure how union with Christ being a “faith-union” avoids making that transition if “faith” (i.e., the presence of saving faith) is defined to be an “attendant human response” (thus synergistic) rather than a direct sovereign (monergistic) work of God. Though the role of “works” (i.e., actions) is rejected, isn’t faith itself a necessary (albeit non-meritorious) “work” under that concept? How does this differ from the infamous “covenant faithfulness” redefinition of “faith” that is characteristic of, say, Norm Shepherd and the New Perspective?

  42. Bill

    Canden, I have read the lutheran confessions. Faith is a gift of God for the lutherans, it is by grace alone, and the bestowing of faith involves no human cooperation. There’s no semi-pelagian hint on the lutheran confessions. Whether regeneration precedes faith or not, I have to say that for Calvin regeneration comes after faith. He wrote a whole chapter on the Institutes (chapter 3 of book 3 titled Regeneration by faith. Of Repentance) to explain why regeneration follows faith. We can not talk of any kind of good works or repentance or regeneration prior to faith in Christ (or union with Christ which Calvin indicates is obtained by faith alone) being bestowed on the believer by God through faith. In fact it is lutherans that teach in their confessions that repentance (regeneration) precedes faith, while John Calvin clearly taught that repentance / regeneration comes after faith. Read the post I wrote today on http://reformedforum.org/ctc207

  43. Bill

    Canden, I re-read chapters 1-3 of the Institutes. For Calvin, we are united to Christ through faith when we perceive Christ is favourable toward us. Faith is not just knowledge and assent Calvin states, but trust and God writes in our hearts a faith that looks on Christ as bestowing all favours on us. Calvin divides the favours we obtain by faith (when we are united with Christ) into two, i.e. 1) repentance / infused grace/ sanctification 2) justidication (we are declared righteous). I believe that if Dr. Tipton had stated that by faith alone we are united with Christ, and would have highlight faith as apprehending all of Christ then everything he said on this episode would be consistent with Calvin’s teaching. You can re-read (or just glance through the first 3 chapters of book 3 of the Institutes) and you will read that Calvin encompassed everything under faith, including good works or the regeneration of faith as he titled his third chapter of the Institutes. Dr Lane Tipton calls it sanctification what Calvin calls regeneration, but Dr. Tipton does not acknowledge that sanctification proceeds from faith. Calvin’s teaching is that we get two simultaneous gifts, sanctification and justification,as Dr. Tipton teaches, the difference is that Calvin taught that both of these gifts proceed from faith. Dr. Tipton instead claims that these two gifts (justification and sanctification) proceed from Union with Christ and not faith. This is problematic, because even if we define Union with Christ as the effectual call as Dr. Tipton does, we are forced to admit that the effectual call takes effect when we faith in Christ is effectually bestowed on the believer by the gospel. So faith in Christ or union with Christ are equivalent, and from faith in Christ / union with Christ we receive the benefit of definitive sanctification (infused grace when the power of sin is broken) and we are justified (declared righteous by imputation of Christ’s righteousness).

    1. Dr. Tipton instead claims that these two gifts (justification and sanctification) proceed from Union with Christ and not faith. This is problematic, because even if we define Union with Christ as the effectual call as Dr. Tipton does…

      I’m sorry, but I really think you’ve misunderstand Tipton on several important points. He does not say union is the effectual call. Neither does he say that sanctification does not proceed from faith. Union with Christ is a faith-union. I think he’s very clear in this interview, but you can hear him speak about sanctification on another occasion at http://reformedforum.org/rfs13/.

      1. Bill

        OK, thanks Camden. I think this episode 213 makes it clear that Dr. Tipton, like Calvin affirms that sanctification proceeds from our faith union with Christ. Now I think that Dr. Tipton is correct on his assessment of lutheranism and Michael Horton.

      2. Bill

        Let me qualify this last statement where I said Dr Tipton is correct on his assessment of lutheranism and Horton. i think he’s correct in that he’s identified some key differences in the order between justification and sanctification, in the lutheran (justification precedes sanctification) and reformed tradition (justidcation and sanctification are simultaneous),

        Now he’s still wrong in charging lutheranism and Horton with semi pelagianism. He also fails to recognize that luthernism clearly teaches that immediately after a christian is justified by grace through faith, his heart is changed, his relationship with god is changed, and he wants to do nothing but good works. So sanctification is one milisecond after justification in lutheranism, and simultaneous in calvinism. We may as well say that it’s simultaneous in both, and that one can not take place without the other. Bot lutherans and calvinists agree that the elect are both justified and sanctified, the unsanctified christian does not esxist.

      3. Bill

        Well I think, I found the answer. Calvin also taught as Luther that justification by grace through faith is the chief or sole benefit we obtain from which all other benefits are derived. So justification is the cause and sanctification the effect of justification, for both Calvin and Luther. Horton is right, the primacy of justification is both a reformed and lutheran tenet. Book 3, chapter 17. section 10 of the Institutes is where Calvin writes that the forgiveness of sins is the only blessedness we receive from Christ:

        “Since, then, all the kinds of blessedness extolled in the Scripture are vain so that man derives no benefit from them until he obtains blessedness by the forgiveness of sins, a forgiveness which makes way for them, it follows that this is not only the chief and highest, but the only blessedness” John Calvin

  44. Jeffrey Gordon

    I transcribed a bit of this talk (forgive any typos) from about 53:47, a discussion on “regeneration” and “definitive sanctification” prompted by the worry that Lutherans (and accused crypto-Lutheran Mike Horton), by prioritizing justification (over regeneration) end up “semi-Pelagian”… The partial transcript:

    [c. 53:47ff, Tipton] “The way that I want to construe the difference between regeneration and definitive sanctification can be put this way: Regeneration does not in itself involve human agency at any level – it is a monergistic, recreative act of God. Period. Eph. 2:5, ‘While dead in trespasses God made us alive together with Christ’…

    “However… After Paul moves from 2:5 through 2:7, he comes to 2:8 and what’s invoked? You’re saved by grace (Eph. 2:5) – and it’s all renovative, sovereign work of God – you’re saved by grace διὰ πίστεως – through faith… See, the attendant human response comes into view in 2:8 – it is not in view in 2:5. And then, what metaphor does Paul use in 2:10 to describe a faith-enlivened believer? What is it?… ‘Created in Christ to walk…’

    [55:50] “…Definitive sanctification is distinguished from regeneration in the sense that it is a faith-engaged, faith-enabled, renovative work of God. Sanctification always – read the Systematics’ texts – always involves an attendant human response. And so, no sooner are you made alive by the sovereign, monergistic, renewing work of God – regeneration – then you are raised, renewed, to what? Walk. And that walk involves your attendant human response to that renovation. So that there’s a fine line between regeneration and definitive sanctification, but that line does exist.”

    [c. 57:20, host question] “…If [definitive and progressive] sanctification are both faith-enabled, synergistic processes, then how do we distinguish the two?”

    [Answer, Tipton] “You distinguish the alpha-point from the progress that is made from that alpha-point. There is an alpha-point for faith. There’s an alpha-point for a raised or resurrected walk. And (no surprise here that) the best category to use to describe the definitive breach with sin is resurrection. Resurrection involves two distinct but related facets — what is it?: the being raised, and the rising and walking.

    “And so, when we’re thinking about a distinction between regeneration and the definitive aspect of sanctification… Faith is not itself a foundational feature of regeneration proper. Regeneration proper is God recreating and renewing – monergism all the way. Sanctification is something that invokes and engages the believer. And whenever that punctiliar moment is – when you are engaged as a resurrected saint, freed from sin’s dominion – that alpha-point, whatever that is, is the definitive feature of sanctification realized in the ordo salutis.

    Questions then:

    1) Tipton clearly understands “faith” in Ephesians 2:8 to necessarily involve what he calls “attendant human response”, and “synergistic” (and skipped the phrase “and that not of yourselves…” which seems to still indicate monergism, but that’s not my point). If faith is the instrumental cause of justification (as everyone seems to agree), but faith is itself an “attendant human response”, is not one then contingently justified based on his “response”? Since God has regenerated, we have escaped Pelagius, but have we then embraced Arminius?

    2) His fine-point between “distinctive” and “progressive” sanctification is no distinction at all. The “alpha-point”? Isn’t it inherently problematic to call anything “definitive” that is in any way contingent upon “human response”?

    3) Would it not be both more Biblically accurate and more helpful to see the sovereign act of God in “regeneration” as itself monergistically entailing the very “resurrection” that Tipton posits as the “alpha-point” of definitive sanctification, and only subsequent to, and as a result of, that definitively-sanctifying work of God would we then see the need to “walk” in that “newness of life” in any sort of faith-enabled, synergistic, response? Doesn’t “regeneration” entail “resurrection” (as two aspects of the same monergistic act).

    4) It seems we lose more than we gain (both in clarity and accuracy) from either differentiating regeneration from “definitive sanctification”, or from weak attempts to distinguish “definitive” from “progressive” sanctification. That is, why go to such great lengths to posit a “definitive” yet “synergistic” “alpha-point”, versus just acknowledging God’s monergistic work of definitive sanctification (e.g., the utterly passive language and sense of Romans 6:2-4a) as the real “alpha-point” of our subsequent synergistic, faith-enabled “walk” in that reality (per Rom 6:4bff)?

  45. Bill

    and I should have added that Dr. Tipton and Dr. Michael Horton both seem to identify faith with justification, while for Calvin faith included both sanctification and justification. Let me draw it quickly below:

    Calvin: FAITH is followed by two simultaneous gifts sanctification and justification
    Tipton: UNION with Christ is followed by faith (justification) and sanctification
    Lutherans: FAITH (justification) is followed by sanctification

    As you can see the risk of antinomianism is high under both Tipton and the lutherans since both identify faith with justtification. While Calvin put faith (by which we are united to Christ) ahead of justification and sanctification, faith encompasses it for Calvin.

  46. Jeffrey Gordon

    Just one more post (too much space already I know). Since Camden mentioned Gaffin’s “By Faith Not by Sight”, I found I had it on Logos and read through it. I pretty much agree with the passage below on “definitive sanctification” from Gaffin. I would hold that the transition in Ephesians 2 from God’s sovereign and monergistic work to one which includes man’s “attendant response” does not occur in verse 8 (“by faith”, which is in turn “not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”), but not until the final phrase of verse 10. Gaffin suggests that our progressive sanctification is rooted in God’s work of definitive sanctification (which I would hold to be monergistic and thus even less differentiable from regeneration).

    With Horton I would agree that, though we must credit our subjective faith (the fact that we believe) to the sovereign, regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in us, the object of that faith as such remains Christ in Himself (i.e., in both His Person, and work, outside of us), rather than Christ in us. It doesn’t seem incompatible with what Gaffin says:

    Further, for Paul sanctification is not only a process involving us in our activity but is also and first of all “definitive sanctification,” a decisive, definitive, once-for-all act of God, underlying our activity. A central point of Romans 6–7, for instance, is that while sin is a reality for the believer, it is not my Lord. Because of union with Christ in his death and resurrection I am no longer sin’s slave. Sin is indwelling but not overpowering; for the believer indwelling sin is not enslaving sin.

    In fact, as we have already seen, sanctification is an aspect and outcome of the reality of the resurrection already experienced by the believer and its ongoing, progressive realization has no deeper perspective from which it can be viewed than that it is a continual “living to God” by those who are “alive from the dead” (to be sure, “in the mortal body,” Rom. 6:11–13). Or, as Paul puts it in Ephesians 2:10 – perhaps the most decisive biblical pronouncement on “good works,” sanctification is a matter of those – note, just those who are “saved by grace through faith and not by works” (vv. 8–9) – who “have been created in Christ Jesus for the good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

    The point here is that “The path of good works runs not from man to God, says Paul, but from God to man.” Ultimately, in the deepest sense, for Paul “our good works” are not ours, but God’s. They are his work begun and continuing in us, his being “at work in us, both to will and to do what please him” (Phil. 2:13). That is why, without any tension, a faith that rests in God the Savior is a faith that is restless to do his will.

    In 1 Corinthians 4:7 Paul puts to the church those searching rhetorical questions, “Who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (NIV). These questions, we should be sure, have the same answer for sanctification as for justification, for our good works as well as for our faith. Both, faith and good works, are God’s gift, his work in us. The deepest motive for our sanctification, for holy living and good works, is not our psychology, not how I “feel” about God and Jesus. Nor is it even our faith. Rather, that profoundest of motives is the resurrection power of Christ, the new creation we are and have already been made a part of in Christ by his Spirit.

    Gaffin, R. B. (2006). By Faith, Not by Sight: Paul and the Order of Salvation (77–78). Paternoster.

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  52. “The views and opinions expressed in this interview are solely of the individuals and are not the views of Reformed Forum or any other organization affiliated with the participants in this interview.”

    I have a question. What are the views of the Reformed Forum. LOL.

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